The BJP in Gujarat polls played a soft Hindutva card but many strong Hindutva faces were in fray this time. Among these, Deesa’s winning candidate Shashikant Pandya, 54, is believed to be a dark horse. Pandya, a RSS Pracharak, is a bachelor and is believed to be very close to PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.Pandya was among the Karsevaks who participated in demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Pandya said, “I had gone in 1990 for Kar Seva, but we were dragged by police in riverbed of Sarayu near Ayodhya. Mulayam Singh Yadav kept us in jail for many days. All Kar Sevaks had to face very tough time in Tihar prison. Then, I was one of the crowd who climbed up to the peak of the controversial structure of Babri Masjid and demolished it.”Pandya had also participated in BJP’s movement to unfurl the Tricolour in Lal Chowk of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir during the tense days. Keeping the Hindutva image of Pandya in mind, BJP leaders offered him the ticket for Assembly polls from Deesa constituency in Banaskantha.Pandya said, “Deesa was hit by massive flood in July this year and people faced a lot of hardships. I and other RSS volunteers camped in the affected areas and helped locals. This was the turning point, and perhaps the high command considered me to be a candidate for the Deesa seat. Over 50 RSS Swayamsevaks stayed put in Deesa for poll campaigning and that helped me win against Congress sitting MLA Gova Rabari.”A senior BJP leader in Gujarat said, “Pandya is very promising leader. He is very close to PM and Amitbhai. It is possible that he may get berth in Vijay Rupani’s cabinet and may become minister of state for home. His Hindutva image makes him a dark horse in the race of Gujarat politics.” Pandya was a standing committee chairman in Deesa Municipality. He is an Arts graduate and is associated with the construction business and agriculture activity. He won with a margin of more than 14,500 votes against Rabari.A BJP leader from Banaskantha said, “Some senior leaders of BJP did not want Pandya to win and they tried a lot to make him lose in the polls. However, Pandya is a grassroot level worker and has been associated with RSS and BJP for more than 30 years. It was his Hindutva image and work that earned him the victory, walking against all odds.”

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Shashikant Pandya, Deesa MLA and BJP Hindutva face, may find place in cabinet